Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Kingdom for a Quest cover reveal!

My friend Kendra is revealing the cover of one of her upcoming books today! Yay! My Kingdom for a Quest will be the third in Kendra's Bookania series.

Author Person:
Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairy tales and twisting them in new and exciting ways.  She's been practicing her skills on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years, "Finish your story, Kendra", is frequently heard at family gatherings.  Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that also glorify God and his Word. You can read more about her on her blog, Knitted by God's Plan.

And here's the cover! but first a back cover blurb:

Arthur is the rightful king of Briton, but his Uncle Mordreth refuses to give up the regency.   Arthur and Grandfather are now returning with allies to wrestle the kingdom from his uncle's grasp.  But not all is as it seems among his allies, and everyone has secrets.  New loves, old loves, lost loves, kingdoms conquered and kingdoms stolen.   Who is the real "rightful heir" and will the nearly forgotten sword in the stone finally answer this question?
Bask in the loveliness of this cover! It is gorgeous, isn't it? Kendra's covers are always wonderful—she's got talented, artistic cousins.

And now: Three Questions from Us to You.

How have you developed as a writer since beginning the Bookania Quests? 
I've gained confidence and a better feel for what works and what doesn't. I've been reading through the first book on my blog, and I'm frequently confronted by lines where I thought I was clever but ... I wasn't really. I've gained confidence in my ability to spin a story, and in letting Christ shine through my writing. I still have a long way to go, and in three years, I'll probably be looking back at Kingdom with a shake of my head and a what was I thinking, but as long as I'm always moving forward, that's what matters.

What can readers look forward to in the future from the land of Bookania and your writing in general?
Well, from Bookania, you can expect a lot more fairy tales, twists, and all around fun, and from my work in general, you should expect a lot of complicated plots. Eventually, you will learn that everything I've written is connected at some level.
It is my current plan to release the first book of another of my series, Water Princess, Fire Prince of the Rizkaland Legends, sometime this late summer/early fall. I'm really looking forward to that, since it's been one of my favorite books to write. 

Would you ever stick a prince's sword in the ceiling (or whatever happens to be above you), or are you more the embroidery/sewing type?
If I knew how, I'd probably be the one throwing swords into the ceiling ... but I don't. I have done a few embroidery projects in my life, but not to the extent that Robert does. I'm more of a knitter. And my weapon of choice is the big stick. (The technical term is quarterstaff, but big stick is more fun to say).
Thank you for letting me be a part of your cover reveal, Kendra!
Live long and prosper. 

Link to Goodreads profile:
Link to Sew, it's a Quest, book one:

Link to Do You Take This Quest, book two:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Beautiful Books: Let's Talk Editing

And here is the final installment in this series hosted by who-was-formerly Notebook Sisters.

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how well do you think this book turned out?
I'll give it a six, based purely on potential.

 How could someone care if she were the most beautiful woman in the world or not. What difference could it have made if you were only the third most beautiful. Or the sixth. (Buttercup at this time was nowhere near that high, being barely in the top twenty, and that primarily on potential, certainly not on any particular care she took of herself.) –The Princess Bride by William Goldman

2. Have you ever rewritten or edited one of your books before? If so, what do you do to prepare yourself? If not, what’s your plan?
2013 was spent solely editing After the Twelfth Night, and it was excruciating. And I just spelled that without spell check so let me do a mental happy dance because I was sure a squiggly red line was going to show up under that word.
I suppose I don't really prepare for editing... I just dive in. It takes some mental preparation and the stamina to actually begin, but starting a new novel is like that too.

3. What’s your final wordcount? Do you plan to lengthen or trim your book?
Right now the story is somewhere above 100,000 words. It's hand written so it's a little hard to tell... but if I multiply my average word count per page (276 words) by however many pages I've done, the count is somewhere above 100,000 words. I'm planning  to trim a lot of the scenes that I have now and add some new scenes. Hopefully the book will end up around 100,000 words.

4. What’s are you most proud of? Plot, characters, or pacing?
Plot. There are so many unexpected plot changes that showed up and they are all working together perfectly and it's wonderfully epic!

I'm actually quite proud of my characters too, which is surprising. I've said before that I'm not good at characters, and I'm not, but I'm getting better. I'm really looking forward to fleshing out my characters more in the second draft.
(Fleshing out... that just sounds... weird.)
My pacing needs a lot of work.

5. What’s your favourite bit of prose or line from this novel?
You're asking me to search through three notebooks of words to find one bit of prose? Here's a line or two from the second page:

It was time for the next step in the Wicked Witch's plan—the step before world domination. The Witch had to find a beautiful princess to impersonate.

6. What aspect of your book needs the most work?
Heh heh heh... EVERYTHING! Like I mentioned earlier, the pacing definitely needs a lot of work. The plot does too. Things have changed drastically from the first few thousand words, and then changed to something different, and then changed back to the first thing again.
Inconsistency errors. Ages, dates, plot... Also, I need to do a pile of world building, especially in the religion area. At first I wanted to write my story to be Tolkien-like, with no religion, because I felt that to add in religion would make my story a conversion story instead of an adventure, and I didn't want that. In this first draft, I left religion and a God-figure completely out. I'm realizing now, however, that it's unrealistic to have a society with no religion. Even the most hidden-away bushmen worship something. Every culture in history has had some sort of god. I need to figure all that out.

7. What aspect of your book is your favourite?
The plot. I love intricate plots where forgotten things at the beginning of the story come into play at the end and are, in fact, important. Not in an Eragon-type prophecy way... but in a Beorn fighting in the Battle of the Five Armies way.

8. How are your characters? Well-rounded, or do they still need to be fleshed-out?
They need fleshing, but I think they are on the way to becoming rather cool! Either that or annoying. I hope they're not annoying, but I have a feeling they might be. That's for beta readers to decide, I suppose.

9. If you had to do it over again, what would you change about the whole process?
I'm not sure. Maybe I would choose to write it on the computer, instead of hand-writing it.

10. Did anything happen in your book that completely surprised you? Have any scenes or characters turned out differently to what you planned? Good or bad?
Yes. A new character surprised me! I was not expecting that, but he is turning out to be a nice enough guy... He needs a lot of work, though.

11. What was the theme and message? Do you think it came across? If not, is there anything you could do to bring it out more?
There are many messages in this story, I think. It's turning out to be a bit allegorical, but not in the normal way. There is no Christ-character, but a lot of Christian morals are presented in the book. The overall theme of the book is becoming Don't shirk your responsibilities.

12. Do you like writing with a deadline (like NaNoWriMo) or do you prefer to write-as-it-comes?
I have to write to a deadline or else nothing gets done! NaNoWriMo is really helpful because I can see my progress on their fancy bar-thing. My dad just showed me how to make one of those bar-things on Excel, though, so now I don't need to rely on only one month of the year to get things done!

13. Comparative title time! What published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men, etc.)
How about every fantasy book ever meets Edmund Spenser and Shrek.

14. How do you celebrate a finished novel?!
I shout to the whole world that IT'S FINISHED!!!!!

15. When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?
I hope they appreciate the work that went into this book. I don't care if only five people ever read it, so long as they realize the literary significance and careful planning that went into each sentence (or, will go into each sentence, once I start editing!)

Live long and prosper!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Whirlwind Review of Seven Worthy Books

(Minor spoilers throughout this blog post. Proceed with caution! You have been warned.)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- All right, this is not a worthy book; at least, not in my opinion. To the Lighthouse is a story about the ill-fated Ramsay family and their guests at their summer home over two visits. When this book was written, in the 1920s, after World War I, the young set were disillusioned with anything solid and predictable, such as religion or government. World War I was the "War to End All Wars" and people were trying to come to terms with what would come next. Artists and authors were popping up everywhere; people experimented with feelings, art, sex, drugs, dancing, music, the human psyche (in the form of psychology); those who experimented with these things in the extreme were called Bohemians and Virginia Woolf and her friends were a part of that circle. Bohemian experimentation and disillusioned aimlessness show themselves clearly in To the Lighthouse.
There is no plot to speak of and most of the book is stream-of-consciousness narrative. The reader gets to see the character's innermost thoughts. Unfortunately, these thoughts are not worth seeing. Mostly, the characters bemoan their lives and bottle up their feelings. Take Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, for instance: there is a scene where Mr. Ramsay, looking at his wife, is thinking "I wish she would just tell me she loves me. I know she does, but it would be nice to hear it." Mrs. Ramsay is thinking, "He wants me to tell him that I love him, but I just can't say it out loud. He knows I love him." If the characters addressed their feelings, if they talked about their emotions, instead of bottling them up, they may have led happier lives and not been so miserable. And, as a result, THIS reader would not have been so miserable.
This book depressed me because the characters were so purposeless and hopeless; they were stuck and they were stubborn about being stuck; they felt they couldn't change. I am firm in my belief that you are never stuck in or with one choice. You can always change if you want to, especially if you have God.
Although I did not enjoy many elements of this book, I did enjoy some of Ms. Woolf's descriptions and it was vastly interesting to read a style of writing that I don't usually read. Another perk to this book is that it is short.

The Ankulen by Kendra E. Ardnek- This book follows Jen as she is sucked into her own imagination (which has been missing for the past few years) which is being eaten by the many-headed Polystoikhedron. She must save her imaginary friends and their world.
This book is very innovative and creative (it is a book about imagination, after all!) and I think my friend Kendra is the only one who would ever be able to write such an idea so wonderfully!
When I read back-cover synopsis' or blurbs on the author's website, my brain tricks me into thinking that the whole story is contained within the summary when, usually, there is SO much more going on in the story. In that way, The Ankulen surprised me. I had expected it to be a story simply about a girl exploring her lost imagination and destroying the monster that preyed on it. The story, however, dived quite deeper and included allegorical elements that I wasn't expecting, but enjoyed. There were a few parts that got a little too spiritual* for my comfort, but I think that's just a denominational difference. Since I can't remember what the parts were at the moment (it's been six months since I read the book), I won't elaborate. Perhaps I shall do so in a fuller review sometime in the future.

*Spiritual isn't exactly the word I'm looking for... but it will do in place of the word that has escaped my memory.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick- This wonderful children's book follows the adventures of young Hugo who lives and works in the Paris train station. He fixes the station's clocks and, in his spare time, tries to fix an automaton (pronounced: aw-taw-ma-taun) which had been in his late father's possession. Hugo gets entangled with Melies family and it becomes apparent that Papa Georges Melies is much more than he appears, and he knows more about Hugo's automaton than he lets on, too.
I love love love this book. Half the book is told in illustrations, like a stopmotion film, while the other half is written in normal prose. Both the story and the wonderful illustrations are done by Brian Selznick. I am fairy certain that he will someday be ranked among the finest children's book writers and illustrators, right up there with Maurice Sendak (and not just because they both have funny names) and Howard Pyle.
The book's magic does not end with its peculiar storytelling method. Indeed, one of the most endearing things about this book is the historical part. Georges Melies was a real man; he was one of the first men to create moving pictures at the end of the 1800s. He made hundreds of films, many of which, sadly, have not survived. Still, a great many are on Youtube. George Melies was not only a filmmaker, but also a magician, so many of his movies feature magic tricks and show-stopping stunts. He also had a substantial collection of automatons. Automatons are mechanical figures, run by clockwork, that "exhibit human characteristics," as Google put it. They were popular entertainments for the rich and they were employed by magicians chiefly in the 1700s-1800s. Sadly, the making and preserving of such works of art has rather slipped through the hands of many historians.
Brian Selznick, however, by writing about these two important but nearly forgotten and infinitely interesting historical curiosities—Georges Melies and his films and automatons—preserves an eccentric and somewhat trivial piece of history.
I feel like a kind of kindred spirit to Mr. Selznick because I, too, enjoy little-known, quirky areas of history (such as the story of the Collier brothers) and I am all for saving as much history as possible, especially if it is such beautiful history such as automatons and some of the earliest films.
While the historical side of things may be lost on younger readers—the targeted age group—it adds a rich layer to the story, something that most books today are sadly lacking. Also, this book certainly piqued my curiosity on automatons and, after some research, I find myself fascinated with them! Perhaps you will be too, after watching this video:

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit- Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis' lives are turned upside down when their father is taken away by strange men, forcing the three children and their mother to move out of their expensive home to a cottage in the country. Although they do not have much to live on, the children fall in love with the countryside and the nearby railroad. They have many adventures on the railroad and make many new friends, though their missing father is always in the back of their minds.
E. Nesbit is one of my favorite authors. Her books are utterly delightful and just the sort of story I enjoy reading: children having adventures.
One brilliant thing about this story—and The Enchanted Castle, the other E. Nesbit book I have read—is that it doesn't have one singular plot, until the end. Every chapter is its own self-contained adventure (like a novel made up of short stories) but, in the end, everything is connected together, like train couplings (okay, bad simile, I admit). There is something satisfying about reading meandering adventures that don't seem to be headed anywhere, only to find that, indeed, they were all connected and important. Its as if, halfway through the story, the author suddenly realizes she needs an overall plot, only the transition between self-contained chapters and a cohesive novel isn't bumpy, but smooth.
Another asset to this book's charm is that it is about trains and the railway. My love of trains started with Thomas the Tank Engine when I was three years old and has continued until today. Trains hold a fascination for me and I think I would rather travel by train than any other sort of vehicle.

If you enjoy E. Nesbit or stories about children having adventures or novels with self-containing chapters or all three, try reading The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall or A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini- Eragon finds a blue stone in the woods which soon hatches into a dragon! Eragon keeps his new pet a secret, but that doesn't stop the Ra'zac—servants of the Empire—from getting suspicious and burning Eragon's uncle's farm. Eragon is forced to flee with his dragon, Saphira, and the old storyteller, Brom, who turns out to be much more than a storyteller. As they hunt down the Ra'zac, Brom teaches Eragon swordplay and magic and Eragon realizes that he and Saphira are far more important than either of them realized.
I enjoyed Eragon. I think its a good work of fantasy and Christopher Paolini must be credited for creating a working, coherent fantasy world. I enjoyed Eragon's growth throughout the book. I did, however, feel like Christopher Paolini "borrowed" too much from other franchises. Continually, I was saying to myself, "This reminds me of Star Wars!" or "This reminds me of Lord of the Rings!" and not, necessarily, in a good way. While it is good to learn from successful authors, to borrow too much from them is dishonest, even if it is unconsciously done.
Still, Eragon was an enjoyable book. I loved Paolini's take on magic. Magic in Paolini's book comes from a language of power, and using that magic costs the strength of the user. I thought that was really unique and more "realistic" than stories where magic does not "have a price," as Rumpelstiltskin would say in Once Upon a Time.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott- Ivanhoe is an exhilarating tale filled with knights, competitions, a damsel or two, and more than one familiar face. It is set during the Third Crusade—also known as the time of the Norman takeover, the time of Richard the Lionheart, and the time of Robin Hood—and follows the intersecting story lines of several characters. Ivanhoe, recently returned from the Holy Land, and his Saxon relatives clash with their Norman adversaries, Prince John ("Too late to be known as John the First, he's sure to be known as John the wooorst!") is trying to steal the throne from the missing King Richard, and Isaac the Jew is trying to protect his daughter, his hide, and his gold from persecutors.
So much goes on in Ivanhoe that I find it hard to write about. Really, all I can say about the whole book, and not just parts, is that it is epic and definitely worth reading.
My favorite characters were Wamba the Fool and Rebecca the Jewess. Her speeches against the Templar Knight's advances were wonderful; her loyalty to her faith astounded and inspired me. The Templar offered her love and riches—he even risked losing his status in his order just to woo her—but through it all, Rebecca remained stalwart in her Judaism. Honestly, I don't know if I would have persisted in my resistance, had I been in Rebecca's place. By standing strong in her faith, Rebecca shows women that they don't need a man to be content; God will fill the void, if you let him. Even if a man offers love and riches and even goes so far as to risk his reputation for you, it does not mean that he Mr. Right, especially if he means giving up your faith and your scruples. Rebecca is an unsung heroine of literature, I think. Her only fault is in her rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Persuasion by Jane Austen- Kellynch Hall has become too expensive for Sir Walter Elliot's style of living and he and his eldest daughter must remove to Bath and rent the Hall. Anne Elliot, Sir Walter's second and often forgotten daughter, goes to stay with her younger sister's family, the Musgroves, where she meets with a former suitor and falls in love all over again. 
Persuasion is a lovely read. As it is one of Austen's last novels, it is more mature in its style; the heroine is certainly no Elizabeth Bennet. It is a rather quick read, only twenty-some chapters long, but it is full of delightful characters and a variety of different settings. I have enjoyed all of Jane Austen's novels (except Northanger Abbey, which I have not yet read), but I have especially enjoyed her more subdued novels like Mansfield Park and Persuasion. This book is a great read!

What have YOU all been reading lately?

Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmastime is here...

We finally dug out the ornaments and decorated the house, the tree, and the dog today!

Here's the first ornament that went on the tree:

Sad dog:

"Why do you do this to me?"
And now I'm watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine... while my mom watches Star Trek The Next Generation...

Oh yeah, family bonding time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Mutual, I'm sure."

One of the best things about the Christmas season (besides Christ's birth, Christmas music, decorations, presents, and food) is CHRISTMAS MOVIES!

Here are some of my favorites:

Elf: One of the funniest Christmas movies ever with so many quotable lines. One of Santa's elves goes searching for his father and ends up in New York... And it has Zooey Dechenal (or however you spell her name) in it, and she's lovely.

Santa Clause 1, 2, 3: I haven't seen these for a few years, but I remember really enjoying them!

Home Alone: Another funny Christmas movie... a boy is left home alone at Christmastime when his family leaves on vacation without him (on accident)!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, both versions: The Dr. Suess version is just a classic, and the new version isn't too bad either, plus it's got many a memorable face.

Charlie Brown: What holiday is complete without Charlie Brown?

Muppet's Family Christmas: A nice homage to Jim Henson's creations as the Muppets, the Sesame Street gang, and the Fraggles gather together to celebrate Christmas at Fozzie's mother's farm. As an added bonus, the Swedish Chef tries to kill Big Bird and cook him for Christmas dinner. Jim Henson even has a cameo role at the end.

White Christmas: The quintessential Christmas movie, and also one of my favoritest movies ever. My best friend growing up introduced me into a lot of the things I love now... namely: Frank Sinatra (and other crooners), musicals, the Disney Channel (okay, I don't love this now, but it was a fun time in my childhood. Ask me to sing the Hannah Montana, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, or That's So Raven theme songs and I could probably do it), Bitty Babies, and the next movie on this list. (And in return, I introduced her to God, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and Imagination Land.)
Anyway... we probably watched the beginning of White Christmas together two or three times before we actually got through the whole thing (often I would have to go home before they even reached Vermont!)
Not only does White Christmas feature Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye (two epic people), but it also features a wonderful plot and some of the best song and dance numbers EVER! With a score by Irving Berlin, of course it's going to be great! (Unless you are a Klingon who has had too much Romulan Ale. "Irving Berlin...")

AKA, the movie where Danny Kaye CANNOT make a normal face on any of the movie covers.
Plus, it features the gorgeous vocals of Rosemary Clooney, and the INCREDIBLE talent of dancer Vera Ellen.

Eloise at Christmastime: This is one of my other all time FAVORITE movies. And there is nothing that gets me in the Christmas spirit more than watching it.


What are YOUR favorite Christmas movies?

P.S. Thank you all for answering my questions in the previous post! If you haven't yet, please do so! I would still love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I need YOUR help!

Huzzah, I have a diagnoses! Now I can do something about my breathing problem! Actually, it isn't even a breathing problem. Costochondritis. It's a swelling of the cartilage in the rib area. So I'm taking an anti-inflammatory. Supposedly, this is quite a common condition. Thanks for the prayer!


Now onto the title of this post... I need your help! I have two questions to ask. You can answer one or both of them. I would appreciate it if all followers, readers, or passerbys answered at least one of the questions.
1. Give me your six favorite genres of books. (For example: fantasy, sci-fi, romance, historical, etc.) If you don't have six, just name any that come into your head. You don't even have to do six if you don't want to. You can repeat ones that have already been said.

2. If you like, give me examples from each genre, or for just some of the genres. You can give me modern books or classics, or one of each. What I'm looking for specifically is well-known, quintessential books for each genre; ones that many people have read; ones that if you hear "sci-fi" you immediately think of that book. (For example: A fantasy book could be Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or something by R.A. Salvatore.)

Even if you've never commented before, or are only passing by, even if you read this a few weeks from now, I would love to have your answer! It is for a project that I am going to begin in the New Year.
So, everyone (and I mean everyone), comment! I can't wait to hear your answers.

Live long and prosper.

Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis the season to be busy... fa la la la la

Before December 25th, I have:
One piano recital.
Two doctor's appointments.
Two church Christmas programs.
Two youth/young adult events.
Two exams and three essays (and to make it more stressful, the three essays have to be written in two hours).
Two voice recitals.
Two dinners.
Three choir concerts.

And some less important, but still fun things...
Jenelle Leanne Schmidt is having a read-along with her book King's Warrior. You can read the "behind the scenes" scoop about each chapter on her BLOG.
Continuing to write six pages a day so that I can finish this book by the end of December. If it isn't finished by the end of December, you may hear about me on the news: Author goes mad and kills herself because the story JUST WON'T END!!!!!!

I would appreciate some prayer. It's really hard to focus on Christ's birth and the Christmas season when there is so much going on. The Christmas season always seems to bring more stress than joy. Also, if you think of it, you can pray for me tomorrow as I am going to the doctor to find out why I have been having trouble breathing and catching my breath.

Are the holidays busy for you, or do you find them a welcome break from work/school/busyness? Can I be praying for you for anything?